Regular dental checkups are important at all ages, but children, who face a variety of specific potential oral health hazards at each stage of development, are particularly vulnerable. It is vital that every child develops good oral hygiene habits and attends regular examinations by a pediatric dentist.
First Year or First Tooth
As soon as a child’s first tooth appears — and certainly no later than his or her first birthday — it is time to seek the services of a pediatric dentist. This person is specially trained to address the many oral health challenges unique to child patients, and has an office environment designed to create a fun, non-threatening experience for even the smallest kids.
The number one chronic childhood disease in America today is tooth decay, affecting nearly half-off all kindergarteners. Bottle-feeding (especially juice or sugary drinks, leading to “bottlemouth syndrome”), breastfeeding late at night and numerous other factors may contribute to the formation of cavities in even the very youngest children. And for those who live in areas without fluoridated drinking water — such as Wichita — the rate of tooth decay among children is an average of roughly 25% higher.
The Importance of Baby Teeth
Many parents mistakenly assume that the temporary nature of baby teeth means it doesn’t matter if they develop cavities, but neglecting to care for them risks inflicting upon their children not only the terrible pain of toothache, but other associated complications as well — sleeplessness, loss of concentration, lowered self-esteem/unwillingness to smile, absences from school, infection and in the worst cases, even sepsis. Taking preventive care is easy and clearly preferable to the potential of your child suffering discomfort or even a serious medical condition.
Healthy Teeth Means Happy Kids
Additionally, it should be noted that developing good lifelong oral self-care habits starts early; a child who develops a positive attitude about regular dental checkups and who grows up brushing his or her teeth every day will have ample reason to smile for years to come.
Your family’s pediatric dentist can advise you on dietary, environmental and other factors that affect your children’s oral health, which is not only a major contributor to their overall health, but essential to their very development. Your child’s dentist will keep track of conditions inside your their mouth as new teeth erupt, fall out and are eventually replaced by adult teeth — the better to prevent more serious problems in the future. A healthy mouth helps children do a better job chewing their food and learning to speak properly, too.
Form Good Dental Habits Early
Your pediatric dentist will make sure to carefully instruct you and your children in the proper care of their teeth, including brushing, flossing and the use of oral rinses. He or she will explain to your child in a simple way what causes tooth decay and the importance of preventing it.
When parents develop a dental care program at home — not just making sure kids’ teeth are clean, but also maintaining a healthy diet, setting good personal examples and taking a proactive approach to getting kids excited about their regular dental visits — young people have a huge health advantage they will maintain for the rest of their lives.